Features Jan 8, 2014 | 6:06 PMby Colin McGourty

Shipov’s Review of 2013

What were the best chess games and moves of 2013? The best opening idea? The worst blunder? Find out one grandmaster's view in this excerpt from Sergey Shipov’s bumper round-up of the chess events of last year.

Sergey Shipov commentating at the 2013 Tal Memorial, with Peter Svidler and Ian Nepomniachtchi | photo: Russian Chess Federation

Russian Grandmaster Sergey Shipov is widely acknowledged to be one of the world’s best chess commentators and his Review of 2013 is an unrivaled look back at what was a successful year for chess. Sergey was answering questions posed by members of the Russian KC Forum, part of the Crestbook website. The full English translation can now be read there

Sergey Shipov: My view of 2013 as a whole

The main impression was that records were broken for how packed the calendar was, with an abundance of strong tournaments.

I can’t remember seeing as many important events as we had in 2013 - the Candidates Tournament, two World Championship matches, the Men’s and Women’s Grand Prix series, the World Cup, the World and European Team Championships and a huge number of strong round-robin tournaments, matches and normal tournaments. Besides serious chess there was also no lack of battles in rapid and blitz.

A record number of games were played and serious contributions were made both to theory and the treasure trove of chess art.

The year’s main event was, of course, Carlsen’s World Championship. We witnessed the beginning of a new era in chess. Youth is on the rise and the veterans are taking a back seat.

The way chess is covered is also changing. The TV format has become the new standard, with viewers brought as close as possible to the play.

My assessment of 2013: A+! Let’s hope this is the beginning of a trend and not a one-off flash in the pan.

ChessTV provided the following video summary of 2013 for chess:

Nominations for 2013

vasa: The most vivid chess moment of 2013?

The last round of the Candidates Tournament in London: simultaneous time scrambles in Carlsen – Svidler and Ivanchuk – Kramnik.


- The very best game of the year?

Given the wealth of choice, and it really was an impressive year for chess, I can’t single out one game. I advise readers to choose the best themselves - from those I mention below.

- The five best combinations of the year?

I wasn’t physically able to follow all the games played by tactically-gifted players. No doubt non-elite tournaments featured dozens of wonderful combinations, but all I can do is mention those fragments which stuck in my memory – making no claims to an all-encompassing survey.   

1. Aronian – Anand, Wijk aan Zee (starting from 15…Bc5! – Rubinstein would have been proud).

2. Kramnik – Fressinet, Alekhine Memorial (after 25…Bxf2+ the most beautiful lines didn’t appear on the board)

3. Kramnik – Fridman, Dortmund (20.f6! and 29.Nd5! were like stages of a long attack)

4. Fridman – Naiditsch, Baden-Baden (starting from 21…Ndf3+!)

5. Caruana – Nakamura, Wijk aan Zee (the 54…g4! break and so on)


Rapport – Movsesian, Wijk aan Zee (B) (starting from 16.e4!)

Kosteniuk – Charochkina, Russian Championship Superfinal, Nizhny Novgorod (the blow on e6 etc.)

You can play through all the best combinations in the viewer below:

- The three best positional games of the year?

Carlsen – Karjakin, Wijk aan Zee

Gelfand – Carlsen, London Candidates Tournament

Carlsen – Gelfand, London Candidates Tournament


Nakamura – Karjakin, Tal Memorial, Moscow

Vachier-Lagrave – Ding Liren, Biel (an exquisite game!)

You can play through all the best positional games in the viewer below:

- Three novelties of the year?

This requires an introduction on the theme, “what is a novelty?” The issue shouldn’t be approached too formally.

It often happens that a rare move has been played a few times in an important variation, but hasn’t yielded good results or caught the eye – and therefore the great and the good haven’t paid any attention to the move. Then one of them studies it seriously, plays it, reveals the true ideas in the position and achieves a result (for instance, an opening advantage) – and then that actually is a valuable novelty. A real one.

That’s the context in which I’ll try and spot the novelties of the season. So then…

1. Aronian – Anand, Wijk aan Zee


2. Kramnik – Gelfand, London Candidates Tournament

5.e3 with the idea of 6.Ne2.

3. Svidler – Grischuk, London Candidates Tournament

12…Nxc4 13.Bxc4 b5


Anand – Fridman, Baden-Baden

Brilliant preparation in the Petroff, starting with 21.Rae2!

The chess24 team of Jan Gustafsson and Lawrence Trent (with Macauley Peterson behind the camera) covered Anand - Fridman live for the Grenke Chess Classic

Svidler – Gelfand, London Candidates Tournament

7.f4! (Note: Peter Svidler talks in depth about this move in his chess24 video series on the Grünfeld Defence!)

- Move of the year?

It was a year rich in memorable moves.

The best known, boldest and most debatable was Carlsen’s 28.e3 against Anand in the third game of the match in Chennai. The annotations commentators awarded the move were in a range from !! to ? – and the debate goes on!


The claim that this was the best way of solving White’s problems was first made by Boris Gelfand during our live broadcast on ChessTV. Then GM Pavel Maletin awarded the move the evaluation “!!” on the basis of his analysis. I’m not going to get into the individual branches and argue with Pavel move-by-move. I’ll take it as a given that his concrete analysis is correct.

The man of the year with the move of the year? Magnus Carlsen at the start of Game 3 of his World Championship match | photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

I’ll try a different line of argument… Firstly, the move 28.e3 is bad on general considerations. White has boxed his own queen into the corner of the board, transforming it into the bishop’s shadow – and after that he opens lines in the centre in such a way that Black’s passive dark-squared bishop is activated. White immediately has clear weaknesses on b2 and f2. A whole host of drawbacks!

How will it be possible to teach children positional play in future if it’s going to amount to such decisions? The thing is (and this is the second point), Pavel didn’t explain why this exception to the positional rules was forced, as after all, his analysis didn’t show why anything else was bad for White i.e. even if White survives with accurate computer moves after 28.e3 that’s far from meaning it was the best approach.

Thirdly, from a practical point of view you have to admit that 28.e3 isn’t going to qualify as the “simplest” path. At that point Magnus had less time on his clock than Vishy. If he knew for certain that Anand would refrain from the sharpest and most dangerous moves for White… But even so! Perhaps that was Carlsen’s assumption, as it’s unlikely at the board he could have seen even a fraction of the lines later found in analysis, but in that case you can talk about a successful bluff but not the best chess choice… As for alternatives to the move 28.e3 – there was no lack of them (28.Nxe6+ Qxe6 29.Bh3, 28.Nxe6 Qxe6 29.b3, 28.f4).

And as the most spectacular move I’d single out 11.b4! in Ding Liren – Vachier-Lagrave, Biel 2013

As a runner-up: the exquisite move 29…e5! in Ipatov – Kramnik, World Team Championship, Antalya

- “Blunder” of the year?

I’d widen the question from “blunder” to mistake of the year. I’ll name three.

1. Grischuk’s liquidation into a lost pawn endgame in his game with Kramnik (London Candidates Tournament) made quite an impression.


2. The even more significant mistake by Black in Ivanchuk – Kramnik, London Candidates Tournament.

i.e. 35…Rc8? Instead of 35…Rxa6 36.Rxa6 Nf4+! which could have given the Russian the right to play a World Championship match.

Eccentric genius Vassily Ivanchuk defeated Vladimir Kramnik in the final round of the London Candidates Tournament - crushing the former champion's hopes of reclaiming his title | photo: Anastasiya Karlovich 

3.  The third notable mistake: 40.Qd4? in the encounter Yu Yangyi – Nepomniachtchi, Antalya (World Team Championship) – that meant Russia maintained medal chances.


White’s mistake 40.Kf2? in Grischuk – Caruana, Paris Grand Prix, which was already mentioned above.

And also the move 14…hxg6?? In Nakamura – Caruana, Paris Grand Prix

As for the blunder of the year…

Probably 21…Qb8? in Anand – Kramnik, Zurich.

Тянь-Викунтяу: The most “unusual” or “strange” game of the past year?

Radjabov – Carlsen, London Candidates Tournament.

Regulus: Opening preparation/discovery of the year?

I already mentioned one or two ideas when answering the question about novelties. Here’s what I can add:

I was impressed by the system that brought Grischuk success in his games against Nepomniachtchi at the ACP Tournament in Riga, i.e. the new Anti-Grünfeld: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.e3!? 0-0 5.Be2!

I was amazed to see the popularity of schemes with an early h2-h4 in the Grünfeld Defence. After Grischuk – Carlsen, London Candidates Tournament, it seemed to me that the system wouldn’t be used in serious tournaments and was fated to have a role only in blitz and rapid chess. However, it reappeared again, and again…

The Reti Opening made very strong progress over the year. The attitude to it has also changed. Those playing Black have realised that things aren’t so simple and that in fact they don’t have as wide a choice as they previously thought. You can’t play it by ear – you need to do serious work and learn a lot.

Overall, a fashion has now arisen for rare variations. Everyone has had enough of cramming up on computer analysis. Everyone wants to play and win like Carlsen! For example, he played the Ponziani (against Harikrishna in Wijk aan Zee) – and he dragged others in his wake.

MS: The “shutdown” of the year – the most significant theoretical result putting an end to an important opening branch?

The most significant phenomenon of the last few years has been the Berlin Variation, putting an end to nothing less than the move ‌1.e4. This year we’ve had another N new proofs of that “shutdown”, and little can match that for importance.

There are also less significant occurrences.

In the Queen’s Gambit Black has started to experience serious problems after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Be7 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bf4 0-0 6.a3!.

The Kazan syndrome (a huge number of draws in this opening in the 2011 Candidates Tournament) has been overcome.

Therefore Black is now trying his luck in variations where he brings his knight to d7 early on while his bishop is still on f8 i.e. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 (scaring White with the Nimzowitsch Defence) 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Nbd7!?.

This position is as old as the hills, but naturally new ideas have been found. After 5.Bf4 Black confidently takes on c4 and then often develops the f8-bishop not to e7 but d6 – with very decent results. That’s a page of theory taking shape before our eyes. The verdict is as yet unknown.

After the fiery game Aronian-Anand, Wijk aan Zee 2013, fans of the Anti-Meran as White have become despondent.

In the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defence Black is being pressed from various sides.

Minor problems are appearing everywhere: from the modest 6.h3 to the main lines with 6.Bg5 and 6.Be3

Unfortunately (speaking from experience) Black also has big problems in the Rauzer Variation of the Sicilian Defence.

But the Chelyabinsk Variation has had a fine year – and is gradually killing off the white attackers who were accustomed to responding to 2…Nc6 with 3.d4. They’ve been forced to look for slim pickings in systems with an early development of the f1-bishop to b5.

In general, wherever you look it’s the same story – everything’s being “shut down” everywhere.

Valchess: Coach of the year? Junior coach?

Coaching is a dying profession. By that I mean individual coaches who devote the majority of their time to pupils and lead them upwards on the ladder to success. Working with a permanent coach has lost its significance to be replaced by players (even very young ones) working independently with a computer, or also working together with chess friends on opening systems – swapping experience and ideas in joint training sessions, and so on.

There are fewer and fewer notable figures in that dying profession.

You can single out Chuchelov (Caruana, Giri, Abdumalik), Dokhoian (Karjakin, the Russian team) and… it’s hard to continue the list.

I can’t say anything about children’s coaches as I barely follow children’s chess. I’d be glad if I managed to follow adult chess.

Valchess: Young male and female chess players of the year?

Wei Yi from China (who beat Nepomniachtchi and Shirov at the World Cup) and Zhansaya Abdumalik from Kazakhstan.


- Revelation of the year. At the very top that’s no doubt Caruana, but what about those just coming through?

No, Caruana is no longer a revelation. He was the phenomenon of 2012.

In Europe you can consider Richard Rapport the revelation of the year, and in China, Yu Yangyi. In Russia Vladimir Fedoseev has really improved. All of them, however, still need to work their socks off in order to catch up with Caruana and the other chosen ones.

- Female revelation of the year?

Zhansaya Abdumalik. In women’s chess the difference between junior and adult chess is a little less clear than it is for men. Zhansaya has very easily crossed that divide, following in the footsteps of Aleksandra Goryachkina. Aleksandra was the heroine of 2012, while Zhansaya is the heroine of 2013.


- Miss Chess 2013?

Hou Yifan!

China's Hou Yifan defeated Ukraine's Anna Ushenina to reclaim the Women's World Chess Championship | photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

- Mister Chess 2013?

Magnus Carlsen.

Valchess: Chess official of the year?

A difficult question… I don’t want to name the old ones that everyone knows – many of them are already in need of replacement. For now no new “stars” are visible on the horizon.

Besides, in principle the less noticeable our officials are the better for chess.

Блаженный_Поэт: Disappointment of the year?


clear0004: Collapse of the year?

Kramnik’s last place at the Tal Memorial. That was a real contrast to his performance at the London Candidates Tournament, where Vladimir was in the form of his life.


- Sensation of the year?

Andreikin’s qualification for the Candidates Tournament. Sure, Dmitry had already achieved excellent results in the previous year and had started to demonstrate mature play, but I would never have guessed he’d manage to qualify for the Candidates so quickly. That really was a sensation.

- Sad event of the year?

The tragic death of Igor Kurnosov.

- Scandal of the year?

The amateur regulations for the London Candidates Tournament, by which I mean the rule some nameless person drafted in case of a tie for first place. Instead of a logical and sporting play-off we got… in general, we all know what happened.

- Curiosity of the year?

Chess curiosity: the ending of Ushenina – Girya, Geneva Grand Prix, when the World Champion was unable to mate with a knight and bishop.

Off-the-board curiosity: Svidler, Karjakin and Radjabov pulling out of the last stage of the FIDE Grand Prix in Paris with impunity.

- Off-the-board event of the year?

Carlsen being thrown in the swimming pool after his victory in Chennai.

Shipov's full review of 2013 can be found at Crestbook.

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